5 Empowering Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen

Empower Your Kid

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talking to child

Jenny Risher

The situation My friend Michele had just served lunch when, as was her habit, 2-year-old Everly jumped off her chair, climbed back on, turned around, stood up, and then stomped on the cushion.

The old way When Everly wouldn't respond to a patient "You need to sit still," Michele would get annoyed and say something like, "How hard is it to understand? You must sit down!" Everly would cry but still not sit. In the end, she'd get a time-out, which didn't change her behavior.

The better way State the facts instead of always issuing commands. "Who doesn't rebel against constant orders?" asks Faber. (I know I do.) Kids aren't robots programmed to do our bidding. They need to exercise their free will, which is why they often do exactly the opposite of what we ask them to. The trick is to turn your directive into a teaching moment. So instead of, "Put that milk away," you might simply say: "Milk spoils when it's left out." This approach says to a child, "I know that when you have all the information, you'll do the right thing,'" Faber explains.

The result The next time Everly played jungle gym at mealtime, Michele took a calming breath and then said, "Honey, chairs are meant for sitting." ?Everly smiled at her mother, sat down, and then started eating. "That never happened before," Michele reports. She still has to remind her daughter now and then, but in the end, Everly listens. The technique applies to other situations as well. Rather than saying, "Stop touching everything," Michele now points out, "Those delicate things can break very easily." Ditto for "Legos belong in the green bin so you can find them the next time you want to play with them" and "Unflushed toilets get stinky."

Give Your Child a Choice

The situation Three days after our final session, Joan took her kids to Orlando. At the Magic Kingdom, she handed them hats to shield the sun. Her 6-year-old put hers on willingly. Her almost-5-year-old, Sam, refused.

The old way "I'd try to persuade him to cooperate," Joan says. Inevitably, she'd end up shouting, "If you don't put it on, you can't go on any more rides." Then he'd bawl his eyes out, and no one would have any fun.

The better way Offer your child choices. "Threats and punishment don't work," Faber explains on one of the workshop CDs. "Rather than feeling sorry for not cooperating, a child tends to become even more stubborn. But when you make him part of the decision, he's far more likely to do what's acceptable to you."

The result Joan left it up to her son: "Sam, you can put your hat on now or after you sit out the next ride." Sam still wouldn't comply. "But after he missed out on Peter Pan's Flight, I said, 'Sam, here's your hat,' and he put it right on," Joan says.

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